NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Develop the Rain Forest to Save It

April 22, 2004

"The solution for saving the rain forest may be more development, not less," say the authors of "Amazon." The Brazilian government reports that the rain forest was cleared at near-record levels last year -- with an area bigger than the state of New Jersey being converted to agriculture and other land uses.

The region has the potential to be the next breadbasket of the world -- and it can remain the earth's most important virgin rain forest, say Brian Kelly, of U.S. News & World Report, and attorney Mark London.

  • Technically savvy Brazilian farmers have created profitable large-scale cattle ranches and soybean farms that reach to the horizon.
  • Cotton, corn and rice, when rotated properly, flourish in the delicate soil -- and last year Brazil passed the United States in soybean exports.
  • Perhaps 60 percent to 70 percent of the territory -- as much as a million square miles -- should be left untouched because the soil is too poor or to protect biodiversity. The rest, however, can be used for agriculture, mining of giant mineral deposits of iron ore and bauxite, fish farming, hydroelectric power, and even oil and natural gas production.

Strict preservation -- the goal of the World Bank and the European Community, for example -- would make it impossible to work with those who have the capital to make productive changes to the environment. (They sometimes support "sustainable development," but the term is meaningless.)

Although Brazil has progressive environmental laws, it lacks the resources to see to it that they are followed. And that is an area where Western governments have been slow to help Brazil: law enforcement.

Mixed use of the Amazonian rain forest presents the opportunity for improving the lives of Brazilians, while protecting important environmental values, say observers.

Source: Brian Kelly and Mark London, "Bright Spots in the Rain Forest," New York Times, April 22, 2004.


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